Animated "Lorax" leads box office with big debut

Sun Mar 4, 2012 6:20pm EST
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By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A big-screen version of classic Dr. Seuss children's book "The Lorax" rang up a massive $70.7 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over the weekend, the biggest movie debut so far this year.

The popularity of the 3D animated "Lorax" far exceeded industry forecasts and helped lift total box-office receipts ahead of last year for the ninth weekend in a row.

Danny DeVito provides the voice of the small orange Lorax who guards the trees in the film based on Seuss' 1971 book about preserving the environment.

In the movie, Zac Efron provides the voice for a 12-year-old boy trying to win the heart of a young girl, voiced by Taylor Swift. Along the way, he discovers the story of the Lorax.

Families turned out in force for the film, which cost $70 million to produce, and audiences gave it an "A" rating on average in polling by survey firm CinemaScore. Pre-weekend forecasts had suggested an opening as high as $50 million.

"I couldn't be more excited," Nikki Rocco, president of distribution for Universal Pictures, said of the debut weekend tally. The movie satisfied "the need for a family film in the marketplace," she said.

About 8 percent of sales came from giant IMAX screens, and 52 percent came from theaters equipped for 3D. Both formats command higher ticket prices.

Before this weekend, the year's highest debut belonged to love story "The Vow," with $41.2 million.   Continued...

Cast member Danny DeVito (2nd L) wife Rhea Perlman (2nd R) and daughter Lucy DeVito (L) attend the premiere of the 3-D animated film "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" in Los Angeles February 19, 2012. REUTERS/Phil McCarten